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Net Neutrality Defenders Issue Alert as Telecom Giants Ready to 'Sic Army of Expensive Lawyers' on States

Open internet defenders argued the threat underscores the importance of enshrining net neutrality protections in federal law.

"State lawmakers only decided to enforce net neutrality at the local level after ISPs convinced the FCC to abandon its nationwide oversight of net neutrality," noted Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica. (Photo: Political Dig)

Underscoring the importance of protecting net neutrality at the national level rather than relying entirely on state-led efforts, Verizon, AT&T, and other massive telecom companies are threatening to "aggressively challenge" states and municipalities that attempt to establish their own open internet protections in the wake of the GOP-controlled FCC's vote to repeal net neutrality last December.

In a blog post on Monday, Jonathan Spalter of USTelecom—a lobbying group chaired by executives of large telecom companies—argued against state-level net neutrality laws on the grounds that the U.S. needs "one consistent set of national and permanent consumer protections."

"State lawmakers only decided to enforce net neutrality at the local level after ISPs convinced the FCC to abandon its nationwide oversight of net neutrality."
—Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

But as Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin notes, Spalter conveniently ignores the fact that "the U.S. did have a nationwide net neutrality standard that prohibited ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet content in exchange for payment," and "that standard was bitterly opposed by USTelecom and other broadband industry groups."

After unsuccessfully attempting to overturn the 2015 net neutrality protections in court, "USTelecom eventually got its way after Republican Ajit Pai was appointed FCC chairman by President Trump; Pai led a 3-2 vote to kill the rules," Brodkin adds. "State lawmakers only decided to enforce net neutrality at the local level after ISPs convinced the FCC to abandon its nationwide oversight of net neutrality."

While open internet advocates have celebrated recent moves by states like California, Washington, and more than a dozen others to protect net neutrality from Pai's repeal plan, they have also warned that these efforts are ultimately insufficient to shield the web from corporate manipulation. In order to do so, advocates and experts argue, Congress must step in an pass a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn Pai's new rules.

In the Senate, the CRA needs just one more Republican vote to pass. The resolution then must make it through the House, where it will need 218 votes. The deadline for Congress to pass the CRA is April 23.

"Thankfully states like California are stepping up, but Congress needs to follow suit and support the CRA to restore protections for all," Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, said in a statement earlier this month.

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